Beyond the ER: Mental Health Experiences related to Health Crises of Youth with Chronic Health Conditions

University of Calgary and Alberta’s Children’s Hospital

Physical health crises resulting in an emergency room (ER) vsit can have repercussions on emotional and mental health. Youth with chronic health conditions who are transitioning from pediatric to adult care are at increased risk for ER visits and hospitalizations. It is critical to understand the experiences of youth who require urgent care to better address their holistic needs, as this is a common scenario; 15% of youth in North America have chronic health conditions, and 90% of these youth will require transfer from pediatric to adult care services. The Transition Navigator Trial is a randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of a patent navigator in providing personalized support during transition. We are analyzing notes taken by the navigator regarding critical events (i.e., events requiring urgent attention pertaining to participant’s medical condition, mental health and/or social determinants of health) to better understand the experiences of youth.


Zoya Punjwani
Zoya Punjwani is a PhD student in Epidemiology at the University of Calgary. Across her diverse health research experiences, her passion is rooted in knowledge translation and bridging the gaps between benchside, bedside and community medicine. Her doctoral research will focus on assessing transition (pediatric to adult health care) readiness in youth with chronic health conditions.  

Megan Patton
I am currently in my last year of my undergraduate degree studying psychology and a research assistant at the University of Calgary and SickKids Hospital. I’m really passionate about youth engagement in research. With experience as a youth partner and research assistant, I bring a unique perspective to this work. I am motivated to create change in the narrative around being a researcher with lived experience and the ways in which youth engaged research is conducted.

Key takeaways

  • Up to 20% of youth have at least 1 mental health condition
  • Patient navigators provide personalized support during the transition to adult services such as scheduling and rescheduling meetings varying in severity, helping youth develop self management skills
  • Crisis event: an event requiring urgent attention including emergency room visit and family conflict
  • Impacts of these patient navigators on youth:
    • Validating experiences when no one else would
    • Helped make transition a lot less overwhelming
  • Substance use goes beyond just using a substance: triggering chronic health conditions, mental health, and illness

Key Learning Objectives (defined by presenters)

  1. Participants of the session will gain insights on the increased risk of adverse health outcomes in this demographic and the repercussions of these health outcomes on mental health. The two main learning objectives of this session are:
    1. To learn about the mental health experiences related to health crises of youth with chronic conditions who are transitioning from pediatric to adult care
    2. To understand the role of a patient navigator in easing the transition for youth moving from pediatric to adult health care

Key Themes

  1. Substance use
  2. Peer support
  3. Youth engagement

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